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Stopping the destruction of your neighbourhood

 
gardener
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Location: East Coast, Canada
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I saw on Twitter that Ashley Colby, our lovely guest this week from Rizoma Field School, is organsing to prevent the cutting of hundreds of beautiful trees lining the road near her home.

It seems like it's going well, and I'm so curious to know how one can organise their neighbours, and communicate effectively to the powers-that-be!

I recently had a similar issue, though so small in comparison. I was planning to cut a bunch of grasses by the road on my property to feed to my rabbits, as well as save some to harvest the seeds. I was going to shuffle around the neighbourhood to harvest the seeds from a bunch of different roadside grasses, actually, so I could make a mix, and plant it for fodder. But the very day before I was planning to harvest, they were all mowed down! On my own property! Using my own tax money! Without my knowledge or permission! I was devastated, but mostly because of a recent "trauma" where the abandoned blueberry field that borders my property was unceremoniously mowed to the ground for apparently no reason. That was one I couldn't control, because it's not my property. But this one I felt like I should be able to do something about it. I found myself wondering how I could convince my neighbours that it was a stupid waste of our taxes to pay somebody to drive around and mow down all the beautiful long grasses by the sides of all the roads, and organise them to petition against it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of lawn-mowers around here, and I'm still stuck on how to convince my neighbours that they don't need 2 acres of bare, treeless, mowed, non-native grass. But I'm new here. I have time!

So how have you reached your neighbours, and organised for the better of the land? Is it easy? What challenges have you faced?
 
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The Municipality where I live also mow the verges and the ditches several times/year.

There are multiple reasons for this, so as much as I understand your disappointment (you'd have thought they'd have offered all those blueberry bushes to the neighborhood instead of just mowing them!!!), I'll play the Municipality's side for a moment:

1. Mowing stops small trees from getting a tow-hold. Trees can increase costs if the roots raise the pavement, or if pioneer trees start taking out power lines or blocking the road.

2. Mowing improves the sight-lines for driveways (although you'd think they could leave the grass tall where the drives aren't close.

3. Mowing may discourage some of the less desirable plants (some would call them weeds).

4. The tall grass makes it harder to see rabbits and deer on the verges which is a driving hazard.

So I think the first thing I would do, is actually talk to the Municipality's staff to find out what exactly the mowing policy is, and whether they're willing to consider changes to it? After all, as a tax-payer, they're your employees too, and some of them could be really nice people if you express an interest in their job!  A "petition" may be the last thing you want, as it becomes you *against* them. We have an environmental group that meets to discuss and make recommendations to council that has volunteers from the community on it. See if yours has similar, or is interested in having such a group.

Changing your neighbors is going to be tough if they're the "grass everywhere" types. Everyone knows how to look after grass. Actually planting polycultures is scary and new. And it will attract deer and bears (if you're in bear country). And it will seem like it's more work, although it's also a useful food source when the grocery store shelves are suddenly empty! You might have to try starting a neighborhood "gardening" club and start with edible flowers and herbs as an in to more adventurous options, like a polyculture grass meadow with wild strawberries and foxberries etc. (Maybe show them pictures of pretty herb spirals?)

The problem is the solution - but first you need to even identify what the problem is! Good luck!
 
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There is a lot of destruction in this world. I come to communication really wanting to join with others in a group for a community that is really sustainable, growing what things can be for what is needed, with eliminating what things are destructive for this world and the immediate environment there. I think people can really do this, and have a healthy way with this. It takes finding others who all want to do that, together.
 
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Sometimes a gentler introduction to a wilder looking landscape is effective, and leading with wildflowers might be an easier first sell. I am aware of a number of large scale public works wildflower plantings in the medians of highways and interstates in the US. They are a compromise between completely bush-hogged swathes of grass and completely unmanaged growth, which as a previous poster mentioned, can be an issue for deer in the road, roots, visibility etc.

So coming up with a wildflower verge/median concept might be a good way to get support, especially if you can cite other such projects in other areas. Getting images of aesthetically pleasing  wildflower patches may appeal to the more manicured types, and many people like flowers, butterflies, and community beautification projects. So looking for projects that have gotten up and going, indicating some level of community and municipal acceptance might be a good starting point.

I also think that many people are uncomfortable with change. If you simply suggest a change to the status quo without presenting some limitations and outcomes on that change, some people are going to be automatically resistant. While you may have larger and more long-term ideas in mind, lead with bite sized, incremental ideas, and see if successes in those baby steps help get more people around you on board. For example, if the policy is to mow verges in a 12 ft swathe on either side of the road, inquire if they would leave 4 feet to be a wildflower strip. Sure, it's not the victory you want eventually, but it gets everyone used to the idea of things looking a little different, and that being ok.
 
Fred Frank V Bur
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Setting our own example on our property in the neighborhood, if we have that, would be relevant, with any communication for some change. Growing vegetables for food and having growth of milkweed and other vegetation for butterflies and wildflowers for bees and other insects, and plants that can be helping birds, are all good for that, if we don't make more changes, which would help more.
 
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